You may have seen this colorful sensory activity on instagram or Pinterest; buckets full of bright blue rice and aquatic toys. Or bright green rice with tiny plants and jungle creatures. These fun and whimsical worlds are actually extremely educational and beneficial to your little one’s development! Their base is made of dyed rice and provides unlimited opportunities for your little one to develop their fine motor skills as well as engage in sensory play. And we’re gonna show you how easy and fun it is to make! Skip to the end to find out how sensory rice may be beneficial to you too, mama!

But first, what is sensory play and why is it important?
Great question! Our senses are how we intake information about the world around us and learn to navigate it. We are born with these senses, but we must learn how they work and how to use them. Sensory play involves activities that stimulate your little one’s senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, smell and movement) and increase their threshold for sensory stimulation, essentially making their senses sharper. Sensory play encourages exploration and that exploration helps build nerve connections throughout the brain. These new connections allow your little one to take on more complex tasks and promote cognitive, motor skill, language and problem solving development, which is another way of saying this type of play actually makes your baby smarter (1).

Ok, now it’s time for the fun part. This process is super simple and all the ingredients are probably already in your cupboard somewhere.

What You Need:

  • Dry rice
  • Food coloring
  • Vinegar
  • Sandwich bags

What You Do:

  1. Fill your bag with ½ – 1 full cup of rice
  2. In a separate cup, pour in ½ tablespoon or less of vinegar
  3. Add a few drops of food coloring to your cup of vinegar
  4. Swirl the dye mixture around to make sure the vinegar and food coloring fully mix together
  5. Dump your dye mixture into the bag of rice
  6. Now the fun part! Zip your bag closed and squish it up. Make sure the dye works its way through the bag and touches all the rice. It will pool in the bottom of the bag and form pockets so make sure you mix and squish it enough to cover all the rice in dye.
  7. Let the dye soaked rice sit in the bag for a little bit, rotating it every 20 minutes or so to make sure the rice is evenly colored.
  8. After an hour or two, most of the food coloring mix will have been soaked up or evaporated off. Pour the now brightly colored rice into a bowl and place it in the refrigerator to dry the left over vinegar and get rid of the strong smell.

Helpful Hints

  • You don’t actually have to measure any of the ingredients, eyeballing everything works just as well.
  • A lot of rice + a little dye = lighter colored rice
  • A lot of rice + a lot of dye = brighter colored rice
  • A little rice + a little dye = brightly colored rice
  • A little rice + a lot of dye = darker colored rice
  • You can mix food coloring to create new colors just like with paint. If you’re mixing colors, you will need to pay attention to ratios and eyeball your measurements carefully. A bad ratio of colors can turn your rice dark and muddy.
  • The good news is that, like with paint, you can continue to add one color or another to lighten, darken, or tone your dye mixture. For example, when we made our first batch of purple, we used entirely too much blue. The mixture turned a blue tinted black color, but was able to be toned back down to purple by adding in more red. 
  • When mixing a new color, start with a base of the lighter color and add in the darker color one drop at a time. Colors with deeper pigments will absorb and darken higher concentrations of lighter colors. Think of what happens when you add white to any color of paint. The mixture may lighten slightly, but the white will be completely consumed by the pigment of the original color. The principle applies to food coloring as well.
  • Brown rice can also be dyed, but produces more jewel toned colors compared to the bright colors created using white rice.

You’ll Love It Too!

If you enjoy working with your hands, and don’t mind a little mess, you’ll probably have some fun making this rice, and might want to consider making an extra batch for yourself!

Remember in inside out, when we’re meeting Riley’s emotions? Joy, ever the optimist, describes Anger as someone who ‘really cares a lot about things being fair’ right before he blows his top over not being able to have dessert. If you, as a mom have never had a moment like this, we…well we wanna know your secret! But if you’re like us, and blow your top from time to time consider keeping a small stash of this pretty rice to play with when you’re feeling agitated. Just a few minutes of ‘playing’ with a manipulative, like a stress ball, zen garden, or a handful or rice, can have intensely calming effects. The process by which we find relief from objects like this, called fidget widgets, is mostly psychological. Our brains intake information in two ways: physically, through our senses, and cognitively, with our mind. Sometimes, when we’re stressed or overwhelmed, it becomes difficult for us to process all the information our bodies are taking in, and we become distracted or unable to focus. When we play with a stress ball the physical distraction allows our brains to slow down and relax, and thus refocus on processing cognitive information or problem solving (2). 

These devices can help address anger in a way that is similar to how they address stress. As with any emotion, our bodies produce a cognitive and a physical response. Often, our physical responses are more extreme than our cognitive responses and we have much less control over our physical responses than we do our cognitive, making it reletively easy for our bodies to overpower our minds. Fidget widgets use the same power of distraction, or redirection, to distract our minds from the physical manifestations of anger: sweating, increased heart rate, muscle tension, and shortness of breath (3).

Not only is this colorful rice a fun activity for you and your little one, but it can atually make your little one smarter, and help you be a more relaxed and focused mama! what could be better? Please share with us if you’ve made this fun rice, and tag us on Instagram so we can see all the lovely colors you make!

XO, Fake Mom

Sources:
1/ https://www.educationalplaycare.com/blog/sensory-play-important-development/ 
2/ https://ardesign.us/2016/01/the-bouncing-science-behind-stress-balls/ 
3/ https://www.sharecare.com/health/anger-management/what-physical-effects-of-anger

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